Archive for Monday, November 26, 2012

City to consider new regulations for sidewalk dining umbrellas, music, signs in downtown Lawrence

November 26, 2012


Big umbrellas: They’re the latest head-scratcher at Lawrence City Hall. No, really, if you’re not careful, you’ll scratch your head on one of them strolling down a Massachusetts Street sidewalk.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to create stricter regulations on when restaurants can use umbrellas as part of their sidewalk dining areas.

“It is really just a pedestrian safety issue that we’re trying to respond to,” said Planning Director Scott McCullough, whose office is proposing the regulations after city commissioners directed staff members to look at the issue.

Commissioners heard a few concerns that the umbrellas hung so low that even moderately tall people may bang their heads on the umbrellas, if they aren’t paying particular attention while walking.

City officials are now proposing an addition to the city’s sidewalk dining code that requires the lowest point of any umbrella to be at least 80 inches above the sidewalk.

Staff members said commissioners also could require that none of the umbrellas be allowed to overhang the area outside the fenced-in sidewalk seating area. Or, commissioners could ban the large umbrellas all together. Staff members, though, aren’t recommending either change.

“I think they are a very reasonable sidewalk dining amenity to have, and can fit in well with downtown,” McCullough said. “We just want them to be safe for pedestrians.”

Commissioners at their weekly meeting also will consider tweaking a few other downtown regulations. They include:

• Limiting the size and number of outdoor sandwich sign boards a business may have. The new regulations would prohibit any outdoor sandwich boards from being larger than 32 inches wide and 48 inches tall. All sign boards also would have to be placed no farther than 12 inches from the building, and a business would be limited to one outdoor sign per entrance.

The sandwich boards currently are illegal in the city’s sign code, but staff members are suggesting new regulations because businesses have shown a strong desire to use the signs. On a recent inspection, city officials found 35 of the signs along Massachusetts Street.

• Reaffirming that banner signs, such as those that hang from sidewalk dining rails advertising drink specials, generally are prohibited. Use of balloons or other similar types of devices to draw attention to a business also aren’t permitted under the city’s sign code. If commissioners approve the new regulations, McCullough said businesses should expect some changes in how the sign code is enforced.

“We would want to get our inspection program a little beefier for downtown, if this is adopted,” McCullough said.

• A new regulation requiring that music played in outdoor dining areas, such as ambiance music through a speaker, not be audible more than 20 feet outside the sidewalk dining area.

Tom Wilson, general manager and owner of Teller’s, at 746 Massachusetts Street, said the changes sounded workable as long as commissioners realized such items as umbrellas and mood music were important in the highly competitive restaurant business.

“I can see their point on some of the music,” Wilson said. “There are some restaurants that blast their music so loud that you can’t even carry on a conversation. But it is important to allow some level of music because we’re trying to encourage a fun atmosphere.”

As for umbrellas, Wilson said the change may be costly for some businesses. He said the large umbrellas at Teller’s cost about $500 apiece, and he had to hire a Lawrence metal worker to build special poles in order to raise the umbrellas up to an acceptable height.

McCullough said if the new regulations are approved, his office will inspect sidewalk dining locations for compliance one to two times per year.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.


itsalwayssunnyinlarry 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm pretty tall and can't say I've ever worried about almost hitting my head or seen pedestrian traffic flow impeded by umbrellas.... Boredom strikes again

parrothead8 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm not that tall and I have almost hit my head AND seen pedestrian traffic flow impeded, so I guess we cancel each other out.

Brock Masters 5 years, 6 months ago

So they found businesses in violation of the sign law but did nothing? Why not enforce the laws on the books before passing new laws. Here is an idea, why not enforce the smoking ban that prohibits smoking near the entrance of a business.

DennisReynolds 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't think 80 inches is high enough, Jeff Withey could still hit his head on an umbrella. The very tall are an unappreciated and often marginalized group in society, and I for one will not stand for it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Somewhere around 1/8 of 1% of the population is over 6'6", and it's certainly even fewer who are over 6'8" tall, and all of them learn at a very young age how to pass through an 80" tall standard doorway, which is the height being considered for the new regulations. And the higher they are set, the less effective they'll be in providing shade and shelter, which is the only reason they are there.

And while I assume there is an element of sarcasm in your post, tall people generally tend to better compensated than shorter people for reasons that can't be explained by the physical advantages of additional height alone.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

I imagine people that are exceptionally tall would be somewhat more aware of things they might hit their heads on. Anyone over 7 foot will need to duck for most doors.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 6 months ago

Wow, the clueless, spineless, disconnected city commission has finalloy found an idea, concept or Kobach style problem that they finally can get their heads around!

Now, are you gonna post signs and police officers to intercept those too busy to look up from their texting and phone business to watch where they are walking?

tomatogrower 5 years, 6 months ago

I do think that music should be considered. There are 2 restaurants right next to each other who play different music. Some kind of coordination or compromise needs to happen.

Dan Klamet 5 years, 6 months ago

Most of the umbrellas downtown are at about chin level for me. So yeah, that's a step in the right direction.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

Stand up straight, put your technology in your pocket and pay attention to your surroundings. Common sense.

Topple 5 years, 6 months ago

Yup. It's only people who are on their phones. I mean, it's not like people commonly look over to the person they're walking next to to speak or listen to them. EYES FRONT!

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

I don't believe I employed the use of absolutes in my comment. Use common sense and watch where you are walking, texting, talking, picking your nose, whatever.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 6 months ago

If music from the restaurants is going to be regulated, how about regulating some of the street musicians that make up for their lack of talent by adding volume? That's just as irksome.

And I'm not even talking about from me personally being there. A friend of mine and I often talk on the phone when he's downtown, and the shrieks that some of the "musicians" let loose wouldn't pass for music in most places.

Some of them are fine, but the bad ones, are really bad!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 6 months ago

I would much rather run into an umbrella than step in dog crap. This umbrella thing is right in line with the baby chicken thing at Orshlands last Christmas someone at city hall does not have enough to do and should be fired.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 6 months ago

this comment confuses me,dog crap,umbrellas and baby chickens all in one breath? What you talkin bout Willis????

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

^^Stand up straight, put your technology in your pocket and pay attention to your surroundings. Common sense.

---a blind person navigating downtwn sidewalks does not have that option.
these are hazards.

Topple 5 years, 6 months ago

Nope, sorry BG. Logic and reason are not allowed here. The only plausible reason a person could run into an umbrella is because they're texting.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

The article is really about tall people gnome. I think if the umbrellas were an ADA issue, it would have come up before now.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 6 months ago

dog crap is the problem and cigarette butts. umbrellas no problem.

JHawkInLA 5 years, 6 months ago

The umbrellas can't be moved, so that they don't extend into the sidewalk right-of-way?

gr 5 years, 6 months ago

"Use of balloons or other similar types of devices to draw attention to a business also aren’t permitted under the city’s sign code. "

What they should do is ban umbrellas, ban fences, ban outdoor dining areas, ban music, censor their food, restrict their food, eliminate all advertising.

Then, increase everyone's taxes to study the problem of how to get businesses to come to downtown.

Safety is one issue, but as indicated in the responses, one must question if umbrellas are a safety issue or some other issue. Signs on a building are not a safety issue.

Harass and harm. Increase taxes.

Steve Stucky 5 years, 6 months ago

"umbrellas, music, signs". I love order, regulations, rules, command, direct, dictate. Hey Lawrence, where is the 'honk for hemp' guy?

Bill_Slu 5 years, 6 months ago

If you are walking downtown, you should have to wear a bike helmet and face mask. Bubble wrap is optional (for now).

somedude20 5 years, 6 months ago

Heck, as a 5'9 dude even I have to dodge em (Mexican place next to Rudy's). Has there been any reports of people being injured by them (LMH records, lawsuits in the court system)?

I think it is a Rick move for private bussiness to hork up the tiny little bit of sidewalk that is left(the little chunks left that are not outside seating) but then again, they attract people who spend money which helps us all out.

There must be bigger fish to fry....

Paul R Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

More smaller government and fewer regulations?

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

Valkyrie wrote: The article is really about tall people gnome. I think if the umbrellas were an ADA issue, it would have come up before now.

---I'm not a fan of the ADA trawlers who go from town to town making a small industry of lawsuit abuse under ADA.

the umbrellas are most certainly a hazard to those who are walking on what is supposed to be the common sidewalk and who cannot see.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

here we go again controlling balloons!
I would like to hear someone from the city give a rationale for the concern to control balloons and banner signs. they concerned about effect on the overall gestalt of downtown? afraid of distracting drivers? what????

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

to clarify what I meant above, I think it's far better to fix the problem here locally before you get lawyers, and the federal government, all involved to fix this problem Valkyrie. and it is a problem.

Kathy Theis-Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

Sept. meeting. 2. Consider adopting on first reading, Ordinance No. 8780, regarding sidewalk dining and hospitality license regulations. Jonathan Douglass, Assistant to the City Manager/City Clerk, presented the staff report. Mayor Schumm called for public comment. Dan Dannenberg said he didn’t know if the new proposal addressed it, but one of the thing that needs to be addressed is umbrellas. The sidewalks aren’t’ designed for sidewalk dining. Tonight passing one sidewalk dining area I had to lower my head to get by. I once saw a tall man that had to lower his head because of umbrellas sticking out. I once was walking by Esquina and an umbrella hit me in the forehead. There should be a regulation that prohibits any shading device extending beyond the rail. This business of umbrellas sticking out should be eliminated. Any aesthetic value doesn’t outweigh the safety hazard. I have written about this before to an assistant city manager and Downtown Lawrence. Shading devices or awnings shouldn’t be allowed to extend.

I would think the wrought iron fences would be a greater hazard to a person without sight.

classclown 5 years, 6 months ago


If music from the restaurants is going to be regulated, how about regulating some of the street musicians that make up for their lack of talent by adding volume? That's just as irksome.

November 27, 2012 at 10:57 a.m


tsk tsk. Ron, you should know better. First of all, they are not street musicians. They are... all together now... buskers. And around these parts that is considered art. Now you've been here long enough to know that when it comes to anything that can be considered - no matter how remotely- art, then Lawrence is all for it.

That makes those "buskers" a desired element of Lawrence which just adds to the whole 'rest of the world is jealous and wish they were like us' delusion. Which in turn means they aren't going anywhere. Ever.

In fact, you've probably violated some ordinance by complaining about them and can expect to be fined and or jailed for your insolence.

Frankly I'm surprised we're not all paying a special tax to support them, but then again, maybe we are.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

Valkyrie wrote: ^^I would think the wrought iron fences would be a greater hazard to a person without sight.

---not so. when using the cane properly, the blind person detects the wrought iron fences just fine. however, the head level obstructions cannot be detected by the cane.

a dog guide user will have no trouble with the fences. working properly with the dog, that blind person will likely bget around protruding umbrellas. however, that then narrows the walking path for the dog-human team and that already narrowed sidewalk.

now the stupid two inch high planters trip everybody, lol.

gr 5 years, 6 months ago

What about trees? Not just the branches extending over the sidewalk, but part of the trunk or main branches. I bet some enterprising person could search and find some tree somewhere which invades into the certain height area of the sidewalk. Why, that tree must be removed! At least, a big gouge in the trunk to clear the way. Isn't it fun to be a Toby?

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